HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
Cuba
Cuba

February 27, 2017

Mike Donnelly by Mike Donnelly HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

HELP THE RIGAL FAMILY

HSLDA is calling on Cuba to address this human rights abuse immediately. We are asking our members and friends to join us by signing a petition to the Cuban government to respect the rights of parents to homeschool their children and to cease its prosecution of the Rigal family.

SIGN THE PETITION »

The Obama administration argued that normal relations with Cuba would lead to improved conditions for Cubans. But things have not gotten better for homeschoolers.

Cuban pastor Ramón Rigal and his wife Adya were arrested on February 21 for homeschooling their children. Both are scheduled to stand trial.

A Warning

Ramon and has wife decided to homeschool because they wanted a better education for their children. “We wanted the freedom to give our children the education that we, the parents, have chosen,” Ramón explained. “As Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, every parent has the right to give his children the education that he chooses.”

After the authorities noticed their children were not in school, the Rigals were visited at home by three police officials, an attorney, and two school teachers. “They wanted to impose their position upon us and gave us a warning notice and told us they would take us before the courts because of our position on homeschooling,” Ramón said.

“I visited authorities several times to find a peaceable solution to my problem,” he added. “I brought up the possibility of homeschooling under their supervision. I was told that if I did, my wife and I would be imprisoned and our children sent away.”

The Municipal Office of Education in Guantánamo wrote to Ramón explaining, among other things, that “in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.” The letter also stated that the Cuban penal code provides sanctions for a person who “leads a minor to abandon his home, be absent from school, refuse educational work that is inherent to the national system of education, or fail to fulfill his duties related to the respect and love for the homeland.”

Officials have created a stir in the family’s community by interviewing their neighbors. “They are making inquiries among our neighbors as if we were criminals and creating a bad image of me as they go about homes making inquiries about us,” Ramón said.

HSLDA Director of Global Outreach Michael Donnelly wrote to the Senior Minister of Education in Cuba on behalf of the family, calling on Cuba to recognize the Rigals’ right to homeschool. Donnelly received no reply. (Click here to read Donnelly’s letter in English, and here for a version in Spanish.)

Harassed and Arrested

On February 21 at 8:15 p.m., two police officers showed up at Ramón and Adya’s home with the intent to take them to police station. After pleading with the police not to take them because their children were home, Ramón offered to that he and his wife would appear at the office later.

When they arrived at the police station, the Rigals were formally arrested and charged with “acting contrary to the normal development of a minor” and were detained the entire day as well as the next day. Both parents are now required to check in with the police every week in person until their trial.

(Click here to see a video of Ramón and his wife waiting to be processed at the local police station.)

Ramón wants to be able to stay in Cuba to pastor his congregation. But it is no wonder that Ramón and his family, after being treated like this simply because they homeschool, have expressed a desire to seek refuge in a country that would respect their rights to educate their children.

Is This What Normalization Looks Like?

Until 2014, when Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced an agreement to restore ties between Cuba and the United States, the two countries had no official contact since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The U.S.’s Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 states that U.S. policy should oppose the human rights violations of the Castro regime, to maintain sanctions “so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights” and to “be prepared to reduce the sanctions in carefully calibrated ways in response to positive developments in Cuba.”

During the negotiations to restore ties, Raul Castro stated that while he acknowledged the two countries’ “profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy,” he reaffirmed Cuba’s “willingness to dialogue on all these issues.”

In October 2016, the White House stated its expectation for reform as a result of United States-Cuba normalization, including respect for human rights:

Even as we pursue normalization, we recognize we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to speak out in support of human rights, including the rights to freedoms of expression, religion, association, and peaceful assembly as we do around the world. Our policy is designed to support Cubans’ ability to exercise their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the expectation that greater commerce will give a broader segment of the Cuban people the information and resources they need to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future.

Help Defend Homeschooling

If Cuba plans to join the community of nations, especially having a relationship with the United States, it should be expected to meet certain minimum norms in the way it treats its citizens. The right of people to establish private schools and to homeschool is a minimum expectation. A society that forces its children to learn only in public school is totalitarian and Cuba’s long history of totalitarian behavior in many areas including education must change now.

HSLDA calls upon the Cuban government to immediately acknowledge the rights of parents to homeschool their children. We urge our members and friends to sign this petition telling the Cuban government that homeschooling is fundamental right of all families and that we expect Cuba to protect basic human rights as a country maintaining normal relations with the United States.

We hope that members of Congress and the Trump administration will take an interest in this case and take action to defend the Rigals and others like them. Your support, through membership and the Homeschool Freedom Fund, provides the resources which enable us to fight these important battles for families who are being oppressed and mistreated for their choice to homeschool.